From the cottage of Maud and Claude

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Bonnie and Gene

Fashion over function.  Sometimes the city girl forgets country reality.  As I looked over my footwear situation yesterday morning around 5:25 a.m., I pulled out a pair of grey and green tennis shoes.  St. Patrick's Day determined the need to wear green.  I slipped into my knit black crop pants, a grey t-shirt and an aqua sweatshirt and pulled out of the driveway by 6 a.m. to attend a southern Missouri farm auction.

Here in the Kansas City area, it has been dry and warm.  I just assumed the entire state of Missouri was the same way.  So when I arrived at the farm auction and looked at the thermometer that read 51 degrees, I knew I was in trouble.  The cloud base was thick and the fields were a mix of newly-turned mud.  Many fellow auction customers were parking on the gravel road, but I decided to follow the red and white auction parking sign that indicated we could pull onto the property.  I parked right inside the gate and immediately was told by someone with the auction company to pull back behind the barn.  As I started to pull forward, I noticed a huge mud pit that I'd have to drive over and decided then and there, this was a bad idea.  So I pulled past some orange cones to turn around and one of the auctioneers came up to me and said I could certainly go back to where I started, that he was so happy to see that I drove that far and said it wouldn't be a problem to park out front.  Good business.  I like this auction company for a reason.

As I got out of the van and started walking, my feet sunk in the wet, cold ground and it wasn't long before my tennis shoes were water-logged and muddy.  I was kicking myself then and there for not grabbing my boots in the morning, but decided to just grin and bear it.  Next time I would wear my boots.

The auction was to settle the estate of the couple who lived there and had passed away.  All of their personal belongings as well as the items they used out on the farm were up for sale as was the house.  The home was quite old.  These pictures were taken by the auction company:




There were some oldies out in the field ready to be passed on to new owners like this McCormick-Deering tractor:



The picture that caught my eye, though, was this one showing these delightful blue outdoor chairs:


I started browsing in the pole barn where the furniture was located.  Passing by a large oak dining room table, an elderly woman pursed her lips and said to no one in particular, "Hmm.  I served up many a meal around this dining room table."  She placed her right hand over the top and rubbed along the edges as if touching the table would somehow bring the past to the present. "Was this your family?" I asked.  "Oh yes," she answered, "Gene and Bonnie were my aunt and uncle."

She continued her inner reminiscing while going from piece to piece.  You could tell each piece unlocked a memory within.  I stood quietly and watched her as she ran her fingers over the furniture like one does the spine of a book after they've read the final chapter.  Estate auctions are like that.  There are always so many memories and so many final chapters.

Later, as I was looking through the household items, she found me and started talking as she picked up a drinking glass with orange and black butterflies decorating every square inch.  "Oh my, Bonnie loved butterflies."  She chuckled.  "She sure did love her butterflies.  Maybe I'll buy a glass as a memorial to Bonnie."

About 2 feet behind where we stood was a small grouping of daffodils rising out of the ground.  "Did Bonnie love to garden to attract the butterflies?" I wondered. She smiled at the visions crossing her mind's eye and turned around to face me.  "See this front yard?  It was full of flowers.  So many flowers.  She had the largest garden I had ever seen and everything was so beautiful and oh, the butterflies were everywhere." Suddenly her smile was gone.  "But then, Bonnie died and Gene, he was too busy to water the gardens and everything died and was gone."  As abruptly as the conversation started, it ended and she walked off.

The auction began and I purchased a delightful yellow enamelware pan, a chippy paint red-handled strainer and primitive pot lid metal wall hangers.


The wind continued to whip, the sun never came out and my teeth started chattering, so I left early without the blue chairs or many of the great primitives that were going to be auctioned off later in the day.  What I left with, though, was a priceless peek into the lives of Bonnie and Gene. And to me,  that was yesterday's greatest treasure.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Maud's Cabinet

Meant-to-be - - -those 3 words sing to me from time to time.  It's like the goosebumps you get when you know something is just right.  And so it was a couple of weeks ago I was perusing a semi-local auction site and noticed a few online as well as in-house auction listings.  Honestly, though, I travel to farm auctions for a reason.  I love the outdoors.  Barns and old farmhouses- - - yes, please!  To be amongst those of all different walks of life:  antique dealers, farmers, Mennonites and the Amish are the most frequent people I meet up with at auctions. Conversations are rich.  Usually there is a good deal of history at farm auctions.  On lucky days, the actual farmhouse is up for auction, so the doors are flung open and all are invited inside to browse.  I have to admit, those are my favorite.  How many wavy-glass-paned kitchen windows have I stared through over the years that face either rolling fields of cattle, or flat fields of corn or wheat; all very picturesque!

So to buy items online that are from the farm, well, that seems almost sacrilegious.  I can't touch, feel or absorb the item other than through a picture.  Sure, I can get an idea of a piece, but not ever the full scope.

However, after pondering a few items over a week ago, I bid and purchased some great farm primitives.  I picked them up at the auction company nearly an hour's drive from my house.  Though the drive was on 3 different major highways, there was some country to admire, so it sort of evened out in the end.

And I found this most delightful Mishawaka advertising box.  I applied oil to the box and the original wood tone came to life:




And here it is at Big Creek Antique Mall when it was finished:


It's not a bad gig, really.  Bid from the comfort of home. I could almost get used to this in between my auction travels.

When I perused the site the first time, I skipped ahead to auctions ending in the future and fell in love, and I mean LOVE, with a piece best described as a make-do.  These are the auction company's pictures:







The description said that the cabinet was 6' tall and approximately 4'4" wide.  I have no concept of numeral measurements.  I just don't.  Yea, I know a few 6' tall people.  And 4'4" wide should fit in the back of my hubby's Dodge Ram.  I showed the pictures to my other half and he said it looked great and it would fit fine in the Ram.  I asked him again a few days later and he responded the same.  Wednesday night was the auction finale and I asked him one more time before I bid.  All was well on his end so I bid and won the purchase price.  To say I was ecstatic is an understatement.  I live for this stuff.  I love hunting for the unusual and this fit the bill.  Pick-up was yesterday out on a farm outside Odessa, Missouri.

Cool.  Another drive to the country:



Hubby had the day off and we planned on driving out in both vehicles since the drawers were full of contents that had to be transported in my van.  We arrived to a gorgeous plot of land with a farm pond and barn right next to the parking area.  I paid my invoice and headed to the basement where this glorious piece of furniture was located.  After laying eyes on it, we were both overcome.  It's massive.  And heavier than we ever imagined.

Thankfully, the basement was a walk-out and had a garage door, so we could pull back in and load.  It took us at least an hour or so to get the drawers pulled out.  They were so heavy with tools, screws and everything under the sun.  We finally got those loaded in the van.  These pictures really don't show the magnitude of the drawers, but it gives you an idea.  I also purchased the 3 wood sawhorses for $4.  :)  Deal, right?  My poor van was weighted down low.


We put all the seats down in the back to accommodate everything.





Then it came time to load the biggest thing my husband and I have ever purchased and moved ourselves.  I think it may be heavier than the large stainless steel drum front load dryer that I insisted we save money from having it delivered so we bought it and moved it to the second level ourselves.  Yes, I think it was heavier than that!

It took 3 manly-men to get the cabinet in the bed of the Ram.  We decided since this was so massive, it'd be better to drop it off at the storage unit at the lake so it wouldn't take up garage room here at home, so we drove down to the cottage and grabbed the keys and headed to the storage unit.  Except when we got there, the cabinet had wedged itself between the two wheel wells and wouldn't budge.  The Eagles Club is across the street and I nearly ran over and played a damsel in distress hoping some good old southern gentlemen could help us.  But my strong hubby jumped up in the bed and we did a push-pull maneuver and after awhile it started moving.  I may or may not have whooped out loud and said, "Praise Jesus!" and had a little church moment in the parking lot of the storage units.

Once we got the cabinet on the ground, I really could look at it and admire everything.  It's the most beautiful piece we have ever purchased for the business.  The drawers all need some level of work.  Each is filled to the brim with thingamajigs and thingamabobs.  I have to start there and get everything separated into piles before moving on to the cabinet, itself, which will require the white paint being stripped and some wood repair.  We did find some great items, though.  I have a handful of glass door knobs and cabinet knobs that are headed to the dishwasher and some great 1800's door hardware.  We also found this great handle:


And these items:




Oh, and if you think being an antique dealer is glamorous, it's not.  Richard found a bird skeleton in one of the drawers that I had in the van.  Ew.



This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The cabinet, though, is the real story:








That's my superman husband after getting the cabinet off the truck.  :)

Everything needs some work before making it store-worthy.

The story about the cabinet itself is the meant-to-be moment.

One of the daughters at the house walked up to me and asked if I was going to refinish the piece and we started talking.  Turns out, her father died 23 years ago.  He never threw anything away.  Ever.  She looked over at her sister and said, "Wasn't that piece from Maud's house in Independence?"  I about fell over.  Maud.  (Dancing Bumblebee Cottage is the cottage of Maud and Claude, perfect, right?)  Her sister said yes.  Apparently their father had 3 aunts who never married and had a family.  When each passed away, their father inherited everything from their homes.  And, after moving to the country in the house we were standing in, he befriended a lady down the road who also had no family so when she died, he was willed the contents of her home, too.  She said her mother stayed on at the home after their father died until she was 95 years old.  She passed away last August.  She said they had been busy getting the house ready for sale and it's taken quite a while to get to this point.

I asked, "So when Maud passed away, he moved this cabinet from Independence, Missouri to this place?"  And they said yes.  Well, if someone moved this cabinet once, we could do it now and we did.  It's a lovely piece and one I can't wait to get in the shop!

At the end of the day as we walked out of the cottage to head back to the city, we were treated to a lovely Ozarks sunset underneath our arbor:


Yesterday was a good day.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

From John, Dec. 25th, 1906

My husband and I were out antiquing recently and I came across this handmade pillow and completely and utterly fell in love.  How could I not?  See all the beadwork?



And it's not just flat beadwork but layers upon layers of beads:



Just that, alone, is incredible but then I turned it over and found this handwriting:


And then there was a handwritten note attached to the back:



Enamored just doesn't seem adequate.  This sort of thing fills my heart to the brim.

I don't buy much for myself any longer since I'm a dealer and typically buy to sell, but this piece, oh my, this piece immediately went into our collection!  As I was pondering this, my husband grabbed it out of my hand and said, "Happy Valentine's Day."

Ahhhh, he's a good one, alright.

This special pillow is hanging on an old shutter that we found out in Central Kansas that was once attached to a very large farmhouse.  The shutter is laid horizontally on our fireplace mantle and the pillow is hanging in the center.




Sunday, January 4, 2015

Cathartic and Useful Punch Needle Projects Turn Into Multi-Media Antiques

I taught myself to punch needle when my mother was in a coma lying in a nursing home bed.  While up visiting, Dad and I traveled to Delavan, Wisconsin one morning to eat breakfast at Millie's Pancake House, a place we had frequented since I was just a little girl.  Millie's was a super special place.  The restaurant, itself, was a rambling house-like structure.  Each room was decorated differently with antique accents and some rooms had large fireplaces.  Other rooms had bay windows that bathed the tables and diners with glorious light.

Outside, the winding sidewalks led you to shops that had gifts, clothing, meat, furniture and The Stitchery.  This shop was in its own little building shaped like a small cape cod home complete with bay and dormer windows. As a young child, I always wanted to sew and would enter the shop always in awe of the beautiful bolts of fabric and thread in every color under the sun.

The day Dad and I visited Millie's, we ambled back into the Stitchery and I became enamored with punch needle projects.  I found a fish pattern and purchased all the accoutrements required to successfully complete a punch needle project.  We went back to Dad's house and I taught myself the art.

I completed that first project and it's now hanging at our lake cottage.  Doing punch needle is a way to work through sadness and I found it quite cathartic while visiting Illinois.  After sitting in Mom's room and going back to their house, I'd punch away at the fabric and it gave my mind something else to focus on, which was a good thing.

After I came home, I finished up a few more projects.

I traced this scarecrow pattern from the internet onto weaver's cloth:


I then antiqued the fabric, drew grass and framed it and glued corn husks to the frame:



When Mom was close to dying, I finished up this pattern:



At her funeral, I was surprised to see this flag on the altar:



In the winter after my mother's death, I completed this project:



I attached the snowmen to the backside of an old graniteware pot lid and lined the punch needle with sticks of evergreen.

Since the news of my grandmother, I have had the sudden itch to start punch needling again.  It's becoming obvious that my hands need to be busy with what would appear mundane work with the end result a finished creative project during troubling times.

Last night I dug out my supplies from my craft cabinet and will be finishing up the Christmas Robin pattern:



I'm always trying to find new ways to market vintage and antiques.  I know so many are all about repurposing and repainting furniture and whatnot, but I'm more of a purist.  However, I've always loved when I've seen punch needle projects applied to various antique objects like the graniteware pan lid I did above.

Here are some other ideas I found from Pinterest:

(Source:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/64246732157617970/)

(Source:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/243124079859774981/)

This will give me some direction during auction season to find small antique objects that will work with a punch needle design.  I've seen wooden scoops, wood cutting boards and all sorts of really old barn wood at farm auctions that will work perfectly!

I just ordered some more weaver's cloth off eBay and additional patterns to work on after the current project.  

Hopefully throughout the year, I'll blog about the finished projects so keep watch!

- - -
Sadly, Millie's Pancake House is closed.  Here is their old website with pictures:


 The Stitchery, though, still exists in its cozy little building.  They are on facebook:  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Grandma Nehring

I grew up in a red ranch home directly behind my grandparents' home in Sycamore, Illinois until my family moved to North Carolina in 1983.  Up until that time, my grandparents' home, their backyard and the large chalet they built in the 1960's was an extension of my home.  Really, my childhood was magical.  Gram and Pop kept up their expansive lawn park-like; they planted hoards of flowers every spring and kept the bushes trimmed perfectly.  They lined the curved flagstone walkway with bushes and lights next to the chalet.  Spotlights shone on the back of their house accenting the blue siding and pointed to a large fountain in the center of the garden right outside their dining room window.  The fountain was a boy that held a goose which spit out water from its beak.  You could hear the tinkling of water in the backyard and when the windows were open, it was the background sound you would hear inside the house.

Gram tells me that when my brother was born, their first grandchild, they purchased the fountain because the little boy looked like my brother, Jeff.  When she downsized, the bottom of the concrete fountain was thrown away and she was ready to pound the living tar out of the boy to throw away, as well, but I rescued him and brought him home.  He sits near our fireplace.


My grandparents were beautiful people.  They were very classy in everything they did.  Pop wore khakis and always a white dress shirt to work in the yard.  Gram was a model for The Little Traveler in Geneva, Illinois when I was quite young and she always presented herself in a beautiful fashion.

Here is the picture after they were first married in the 1950's:


Gram just sent me a picture that was taken for the church book a couple of months ago and still looks as tasteful as ever:


My Grandfather died in 1997.  Gram stayed on at the house and took care of it until late 2003 when she moved in with my parents because her health was failing and she felt she couldn't properly take care of everything the way it should be.  However, during 2004 through the summer of 2005, Gram held several garage sales and sold things on WLBK through the call-in Trading Post segments.  I drove out to Illinois several times and sold many antiques on eBay.

My grandparents had gorgeous antiques; many from their families and some they had purchased over the years. Truly, my love of antiques came from my Nehring grandparents. I grew up with antiques.  To me, this was a normal way of living.  While I grew to love primitives, the antiques in my grandparents' home leaned more towards the formal antiques, except in the chalet.  The chalet was more primitive in style.



When it came time to sell the contents of the chalet, I came out and Gram had lined up all the stoneware crocks and jugs and numbered them all.  Oh, these pictures are just the tip of the iceberg, they had so many more jugs, but those pictured are the ones slated to sell online.



See the red phone on the left hand side of the picture?  Us kids called that the "Bat Phone." (Batman and Robin, you know.)

The chalet was the most special place on Earth.  I took this picture after she started dismantling everything.



Nearly every square inch of display space was full of stuff.  Most everything had a story and if you had the time, Gram could relay stories behind every single thing that was ever handed down or purchased.  Those months I eBayed items for her were some of the richest months of my life.  I loved hearing the stories and tried to pass them on to the new owners that purchased her items on eBay.

So many family dinners were in the chalet.  My friends and I held slumber parties here and played Barbies right in front of the fireplace.  The loft held some interesting trunks filled with old linens.  There was a small kitchen, a bathroom and the workshop was in the back room.

Christmas Eves were spent in the chalet.  This was probably around 1976 or '77.  

When Gram moved in with my parents, she brought her most favorite things from home.  Her doll was on her bedroom dresser:


I'm pretty sure her mother, my great-grandmother, Mary Loptien, stitched this sampler:



During the downsize, I chose an antique pie safe and an antique buffet as well as some smaller items like this gravy boat and aluminum heart bookmark:


Infact, as I look around this house and the cottages, I have many things from Gram and Pop.  They are all so special to me.

When my mother passed away in 2009, my grandmother moved to a condo and lives with my aunt and uncle. Gram and I have had a very special bond.  We wrote letters to each other after I moved to North Carolina, and now as an adult, I call my grandmother often and I listen to her talk about her friends, social life and church.  It's a gift, really.  I am one of the few people in my age group who still has a grandparent living.

New Year's Eve I received a phone call from my aunt saying that Gram was in the hospital.  Her heart isn't working like it should which caused a fluid build-up in her system causing her to be very short of breath.  Initially, it was thought this was very serious but now it sounds like something that's quite common in her age group.  Today I called the house and my grandmother answered.  She was checked out of the hospital yesterday and is resting comfortably at home on some new medications.

But during the past few days I've really had the chance to think about my grandmother and how, when she passes away, it will be one of my greatest losses. She has always been the link to earlier generations and she spent quite a bit of time in genealogy.  Gram remembers the time when they used an outhouse out on the farm, she chuckles when she tells the story of her mother taking the horse around the bend a bit too fast in icy conditions and tipped over the wagon she was riding in.  She has seen and lived so much in her 86 years.

We have always talked a lot about the past because I'm cut from the same cloth as she is.  I love history, especially the history involving family.  I drive the country roads in DeKalb County, Illinois and it's like a visual history book because over the years she has told me stories of her growing up, which farms belonged to which family member, who lived where, the walk to the one-room schoolhouse, and yes it's true, over hill and dale even in knee-deep snow.  Elmwood Cemetery in Sycamore, Illinois is a place she has always frequented.  She used to put red geraniums on the family member's tombstones for Memorial Day and she once mentioned to me while we were walking around the cemetery, "I know more people buried beneath this soil than I do living."

Grandma has been there with me through nearly everything in my life and I cannot imagine her not there.  I think having my grandmother when my mother died was a factor in helping me along with my grief.  Gram was there for my mother in the nursing home after her stroke and was there with my father and me the moment mother breathed her last breath.  It was Gram who held it together while I cried uncontrollably.

She is a rock who has always been a large part of my foundation.  I'm headed up to Illinois hopefully within the next week, weather permitting, to visit with her.  I didn't tell her on the phone today that I was coming out because I want it to be a surprise, just like all of those surprises she did with us after we moved out of state. Surprises are the best.

I'm sort of glad that she ended up in the hospital this week. I live 500 miles away and this gives me time to prepare. Time to say everything I've ever wanted to say, though we share our sentiments every time we've talked. Time to ask questions I have forgotten the answers to. Time to just be with my dear, sweet grandmother.

Two years ago, my grandmother was failing in health and we thought it was near the end. My brother and I traveled out to Illinois for Christmas and I took this picture of Gram in front of the nativity that my grandfather built:


And now I wonder if this was truly the last Christmas Gram will ever spend here.

I'm so blessed to have her in my life. Family is everything and my grandmother is my hero and the strongest woman I've ever met. Even in her various health issues, she finds a reason to smile and laugh over the phone. Today, in between bouts of coughing, she laughed and said, "I'm an old woman.  What do you expect?"

From her? Nothing less. She is my everything and the greatest gift of all.